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The Making Of A Climate Activist Ii
 

The Making Of A Climate Activist Ii

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Presentation of Dr. Helen Mendoza, Philippine Network for Climaet Change, on "Advocacy" during the UP Manila Conference on Global Climate Change, October 22-23, 2009, Pearl Garden Hotel, Manila.

Presentation of Dr. Helen Mendoza, Philippine Network for Climaet Change, on "Advocacy" during the UP Manila Conference on Global Climate Change, October 22-23, 2009, Pearl Garden Hotel, Manila.

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    The Making Of A Climate Activist Ii The Making Of A Climate Activist Ii Presentation Transcript

    •  
      • This is a story of an awakening, a realization, a discovery.
      • But a story that has social and political implications, that tells you about the kind of world we live in.
      • It tells you how rich, developed countries think and how they operate.
      • It tells you the difference between the North (the developed countries) and the South (the developing countries).
      • It tells you, above all, that the two shall never meet.
      • That is my realization and this is how it all began.
      • At that time, scientific evidence had already revealed that Greenhouse Gases (GHG) from human activities would put the world at risk.
      • This led to the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which at the Rio Summit was opened for signature and went into force on March 21, 1994.
      • Having followed discussions in the international meetings and having attended quite a few of them, I came to realize that Filipinos must be made aware of the threats of climate change.
      • My group, the Philippine Network on Climate Change, agreed to launch an IEC campaign. This was in the 1990’s. We spoke in schools that were willing to listen to us, but there were not too many of them.
      • My attempts to speak before social clubs were not too successful. I remember speaking before a Rotary Club and being told afterwards that my talk was rather boring and esoteric. Even unbelievably apocalyptic.
      • Meanwhile I attended many of the COP (Conference of Parties) meetings funded by foreign NGOs. I was at Kyoto when the Kyoto Protocol was approved. I was once part of the Philippine delegation in Bonn.
      • Concerned about the impacts of climate chance and how the country would be affected, my group worked on a primer for distribution. Except for environmentalists, there was little interest in the subject.
      • As I read further on the literature on global warming and attended conferences on climate change, my knowledge of the subject deepened. I was concerned about the impact on the farming and fishing sector. The farmers would have to cope with drought or floods and the fishermen’s livelihood would be affected by coral bleaching as a result of a warming ocean. The awful drought of 1998, a severe El Nino year, made people realize that global warming can affect food security.
      • In 1996, I was sent to Australia to attend the conference on Climate Change and Health.
    •  
    •  
      • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – from industry and motor vehicles
      • Methane (Ch4)- from natural (i.e. wetlands) and human-induced sources, i.e. agriculture, natural gas activities, and landfills. More than half of the emissions are from human activities
      • Nitrous oxide (N2O): From automobile exhaust, industrial activities, biomass burning and intensive agriculture.
      • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), Sulfurhexafluoride (SF4) – from aerosols and industrial coolants. Their strong resistance to radiation make them long-living greenhouse gases.
      • Watch TV, use the automobile, turn on the light, use a hair dryer, drive a car
      • Play a video game, listen to stereo, use the washing machine, microwave a meal.
      • To perform these functions, electricity is needed. Electricity comes from power plants. Most power plants use coal or oil to make electricity. Burning coal or gas releases GHG.
      • Turning off appliances, lights, TV and the computer when you are finished with them
      • Take the MRT, bike or walk
      • Plant trees.
      • Reduce, reuse, recycle
      • Buy recycled products: It takes less energy to make recycled products than to make new ones. The less energy you use, the better.
      • Buy intelligently. Buy energy-efficient products that don’t use as much energy. Some products have models that are made especially to save energy, like aircons and refrigerators.
      • Buy only what you need.
      • All these and more I should do to minimize my carbon footprint
      • My involvement in a government initiative for the preparation of the National Strategic Framework on Climate Change Adaptation has deepened further my understanding of the laws of ecology which states that everything in nature is related and that our actions affect everything in the human and natural world.
      • Infrastructure, Agriculture, Forestry, Coastal and Marine, Power
      • Health ,Water, Biodiversity
      • As I learned about all these, the IPCC (Inter-government Panel on Climate Change), came up with a Fourth Assessment Report, saying that climate change threats are not only real but showed signs of intensifying.
      • All this time, I had great hopes that developed rich countries would come up with some solution that would lessen the impacts of climate change, that they were concerned about the vulnerability of developing nations. I placed my hope in developed countries, the Global North.
      • Then in 1998, an inkling that all was not well, that I should have doubts about the nobility of rich countries began to bug me. I met two very bright young men: Larry Lohmann of The Corner House and Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation, both research groups and based in England. I read the well researched papers of Larry’s group and Andrew’s .
      • Larry was later to become one of the leading persons in the formation of a group whose rallying cry is Climate Justice.
      • My doubts about the sincerity of rich nations came to a head in 2000 at the COP conference in The Hague, which ended in failure. No decisions. No recommendations. Developed countries blocked attempts to make them commit to a course of action that would reduce their emissions. I remember listening to one of our negotiators, Ambassador Bernarditas Mueller, arguing with a World Bank executive and putting him in his place. Why indeed should a financial institution which takes advantage of poor nations be allowed to influence negotiations.
      • Larry Lohmann was right. Nothing would happen at the conference. I was angry. How could I have been deceived by rich nations.
      • for the benefit of future generations and on the basis of equity, and
      • in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities
      • should work towards protecting the climate,
      • but that developed countries should take the lead in protecting the climate system
      • to protect the climate system means reducing emissions in order not to exacerbate climate change.
      • And it is the developed countries that should take the lead in reducing emissions by at least 5% of 1990 level.
      • The historical responsibility for the vast presence of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere lies with the industrialized countries. The Convention recognizes this fact. Yet the North’s production and consumption habits continue to threaten the survival of humanity and biodiversity.
      • Instead of reducing emissions domestically, developed countries prefer to do something which is part of their way of life.
      • And that is using market mechanisms by engaging in carbon trading with other developed countries without reducing emissions domestically.
      • Then they found another way to reduce emissions but not in their own country. They made use of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) provided for in the Kyoto Protocol.
      • How does CDM work? Developed countries look around for a project in a developing country. Take the Philippines, for example. What project would reduce emissions?
      • The developed country would look for a partner in a developing country who runs a factory using bunker oil which releases GHG emissions. So the factory owner turns to using rice hull to operate the factory, which is not only cost-effective but does not emit GHG gases.
      • The developed country finances retrofitting the factory. The experts determine how much emission has been reduced and a price is given for the emissions reduced. The developed country earns what is known as CER’s (Certified Emission Reductions). Then the CERs are traded in the carbon market for a price.
      • The developing country reduces emissions for the developed country. The developed country makes money on this activity but never reduces emissions in their country.
      • What about the developing country? In principle they should benefit in terms of improving the community where the project is located. This is called sustainable development benefits. A temporary job is not sustainable. Conducting a medical mission during the life of the project is not sustainable. Giving funds for a livelihood project is not sustainable unless a market study is done.
      • What is even unacceptable is that the community is often not consulted about the project, which is a requirement in CDM. The community has no say nor can they demand.
      • An example is a CDM project on methane capture from a former garbage dump site which is as high as a mountain. The project is electric power generation. When the project holder (a foreign company) was asked if the community would have free electricity, I was shocked to learn they get nothing. The electric power generated by the project will be sold to the grid.
      • There are many other CDM projects that suffer from the same deficiency.
      • What has become clear is that developed countries who have become stumbling blocks in the negotiations are guided by these goals: economic growth and increased consumption.
      • Naturally, their approach to the problem of climate change is through Market-based solutions and all kinds of techno-fixes
      • Clean coal and carbon capture and storage. This means capturing the carbon and burying it in the ground. This would require thousands of miles of pipeline and hundreds of untested underground sites. This method is still under study and won’t be operational in the near future.
      • Agrofuels or biofuels. The negative impact of biofuel plantation:
        • Exploitation of workers. In Brazil workers receive a fraction of a dollar per ton of cane cut.
        • Destruction of rural economy. Increases poverty and pushes people into the cities where they live in slums.
        • Human rights violation. In Tanzania, 11,000 people have been evicted from one agrofuel plantation alone. Agrofuel plantations have a history of human rights violation. Similar cases in Indonesia.
      • Agrofuels or biofuels. The negative impact of biofuel plantation:
        • Causes water stress. In India it takes a thousand gallons of water to produce 4 cups of sugar cane derived ethanol.
        • REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is a means for rich countries to avoid responsibility for over-consumption and avoid emissions cut by buying offsets. The more trees a company or country saves or pays, the more it earns the right to pollute. This project is usually done in a developing country.
      • Agrofuels or biofuels. The negative impact of biofuel plantation:
        • Blame it on the World Bank’s enticing offers, in many tropical countries, governments have attempted to legally define remaining forests as leasable state lands.
        • In massive logging and agrofuels projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia and the Amazon Basin, the Bank has been severely criticized for funding environmental destruction and encouraging social unrest.
      • Geo-engineering: large scale manipulation of the environment to bring about specific environmental change, particularly to counteract the undesirable effect of human activities.
        • Based on the assumption that humans are master of the universe and the natural world.
        • An example is Ocean Fertilization. It involves the dumping of tons of urea granules into the ocean to stimulate the growth of phytoplankton that they claim would eventually capture carbon from the atmosphere.
      • Geo-engineering: large scale manipulation of the environment to bring about specific environmental change, particularly to counteract the undesirable effect of human activities.
        • Target area for this project: the Sulu Sea in southwestern Philippines. UP Visayas is supposed to be a collaborating entity. There are other geo-engineering projects like bombarding the sea with iron pellets that was done somewhere near South America.
      • Geo-engineering: large scale manipulation of the environment to bring about specific environmental change, particularly to counteract the undesirable effect of human activities.
        • There are other geo-engineering projects like bombarding the sea with iron pellets that was done somewhere near South America.
        • Ocean fertilization is largely speculative and many environmental effects have yet to be assessed.
      • Megadams: While hydroelectric dams do not require combustion, they nevertheless have deep ecological and social footprints. Thousands of people worldwide have been evicted, often brutally, to make way for the dam. Big dams flood thousands of acres of forests, killing trees and causing decomposition of massive amounts of organic material.
      • Sulfates in the stratosphere: Heavy battleships guns could be used to fire shells into the stratosphere to create a reflective haze, screening the earth from the sun. However a dramatic increase of (banned) sulfate aerosols would have serious impacts on ecosystems, including acid rain and localized climate disruptions, such as droughts.
      • Genetically engineered trees: Another company (Arbogen) is developing trees with resistance to drought, freezing, disease and insects and will reduce lignin (a natural material that gives strength and flexibility to trees but “gets in the way” of industrial processes.
        • Danger: Since trees spread pollen and seeds over hundreds of miles, contamination of native forests by GE trees is virtually inevitable and once it occurs could devastate native forest systems globally.
      • Sunshades in space: involves a set of 16 trillion transparent, sunlight-refracting shades in space about 1.5 trillion kilometers from Earth. The project would require 20 launchers and would cost trillions of dollars to deploy.
      • All these mad schemes by developed countries are means by which they avoid reducing their emissions and they could continue polluting with their industries unfettered and their consumption life style intact.
      • Deeply disappointed by what was happening at the yearly climate negotiations and convinced that developed countries, the North, were stalling the talks, I signed the Durban Declaration on Climate Justice Now, which was signed by participating organizations in Durban, South Africa on October 2, 2004.
      • “ History has seen attempts to commodify land, food, labour, forests, water, genes and ideas. Carbon trading follows in the footsteps of this history and turns the earth’s carbon-cycling capacity into property to be bought and sold in a global market. Through this process of creating a new commodity – carbon – the Earth’s ability and capacity to support a climate conducive to life and human societies is now passing into the hands of the same corporate hands that are destroying the climate.”
      • As I read the Declaration, I thought of Karl Marx, who saw for himself the exploitation that went on in the industrial factories of England. He said something whose truth is borne out by events today. He said that Capitalism has a way of creating its own crisis. In our day, we have two such crises. The climate crisis was caused by the capitalistic way of life. The second is the financial crisis.
      • My last involvement in the COP negotiations was in Bali in 2007.
      • One, the U.S. representative was booed at the plenary session .
      • Two, the negotiations ended in a hopeful note with the crafting of the Four Building Blocks of the Bali Roadmap. The building blocks are
      • Mitigation
      • Adaptation
      • Finance
      • Technology Transfer
      • While developing nations are not culprits in emissions of GHG, they can do Mitigation by promoting
      • renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture
      • Sustainable forestry, sustainable transport, best practices in solid waste management
      • Phase out of incinerators,, dumps and landfills, phase out of coal-fired power plants
      • The use of biofuels, with the caveat that they should not compete with food production or cause conversion of forest lands.
      • Developing countries could focus on building people’s adaptive capacity and building resilience, especially among the vulnerable sectors, the poor and marginalized. This work should be built on local and indigenous knowledge and coping practices, whenever possible.
      • To do adaptation, developing countries would need adequate, reliable and consistent funding support from developed countries who are responsible for what happened to the climate.
      • To address climate change and promote sustainable development, developing countries need financial help from developed countries. The financial help is an obligation of the rich countries and the help they give is NOT CHARITY but an OBLIGATION for compromising our right to development by what they did to the climate.
      • To move forward with adaptation and mitigation, developing countries need to be supported by technology and financing. Again, it is the developed countries who could provide this kind of help. The stumbling block here is the issue of Intellectual Property Rights, which developed countries will not lay aside.
      • These four signposts in the Bali Roadmap are a bone of contention in the climate negotiations.
      • In Poznan, after Bali, Friends of the Earth International and Focus on the Global South released a statement, signed by many NGOs, opposing any World Bank role in international climate negotiations, citing the following reasons:
      • The WB has increased lending for oil, coal and gas explorations totaling over $3 billion
      • The WB’s own Inspection Panel criticized its support of industrial logging and violating the rights of indigenous people and other forest-dependent communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo
      • The WB is a human rights violator – violating human and environmental rights of communities from Chad to Laos as a result of its projects.
      • Its climate initiatives are flawed.
      • The 4 building blocks of the Bali Road map are still being debated upon. The bigger debate in the recent intercessional meetings in Bonn and Bangkok was to make developed countries reduce their emissions, 5% of 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol till 2012. After that, they should reduce emissions by 25% to 40% by 2020 and 85 to 90% by 2050. Several well known scientists agree with these figures if we are to avert dangerous climate change.
      • Meanwhile, there is a world-wide movement called 350, meaning preventing CO2 from going beyond 350 ppm (parts per million) and to keep temperature from going beyond 2 degrees C. Beyond these figures mean chaos , mass migration, war for water.
      • Among climate activists the way forward is to promote a low carbon economy and a return to the days of small farming , which is more sustainable than large industrial farming heavily dependent on chemicals that pollute the soil, air and water.
      • As we wait for Copenhagen in December, the Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, recently issued a statement calling on nations who will be at the global conference in December to compromise with one another. He said, “There are now fewer than 50 days to set the course of the next few decades. We cannot afford to fail. If we fail now, we shall pay a heavy price. If we falter, the Earth itself will be at risk… If we decide to do it later, it will be irretrievably too late.”
      • By way of conclusion, let me indulge in a bit of homily. Man must renew his ties with nature. Man cannot live without the natural world. Let us keep in mind the laws of ecology.
      • Everything is related to everything else: The simplest interference with natural processes may set off a chain reaction that may have damaging effects.
      • Everything must go somewhere else: When we release anything into the environment, it will settle somewhere. If it is absorbed in the food chain, it will often end up in human beings.
      • Nature knows best: Nature took millions of years to evolve into the delicate complexity it is now. Changes made in limited knowledge are bound to do more harm than good.
      • There is no such thing as a free lunch: Whatever we take from nature is not free, it is borrowed wealth. We have to repay it later or we will end up repaying the debt in some way.
      • Let me end by asking you 4 questions which I hope you will reflect upon in your quiet moments.
      • Where are we now?
      • How did we get here?
      • Is a future still possible?
      • How do we get there?
      • May these questions put you back in touch with nature and God’s creation.
      • Maraming salamat!
      • Mahalin ang kalikasan.
    •